1. You lack a networking strategy.
Networking without a plan is a great way to waste time and experience frustration. Before you begin networking, clarify your specific goal(s). Do you want to learn about a particular target company? Are you interested in meeting other executives with similar interests? Are you looking for contacts in a new industry?
In advance of any networking activity, clearly define your questions. Then focus your networking efforts on finding the answers. Strategically seek out contacts with the potential to help you so that you don’t waste time. Without a clear plan, you may have some nice conversations, but you won’t achieve your specific goals.
2. Your message is unclear.
One of the greatest challenges facing networkers is lack of a clear message. If you cannot clearly and succinctly introduce yourself and define your goals, even the most motivated networkers will be unable to help you. They may find you charming or interesting, but they won’t understand your needs and how to meet them.
The term “elevator pitch” is highly overused, but the concept is critical. To successfully achieve your networking goals, you need a focused introduction that clearly captures who you are and why you’re there. Practice this before each networking encounter to ensure that you’re prepared for the discussion.
3. You’re too impatient.
As an accomplished executive, you’re used to getting results. When you network, you expect to see immediate rewards. Unfortunately, networking doesn’t work that way. It’s not sufficient to engage in one or two discussions with someone. To experience the benefits of networking, you need to invest in mutually beneficial relationships.
This is why it’s critical to cultivate your network before you need help. Offering your support and building trust with others establishes a strong foundation upon which to build when you have specific needs. Attempting to shortcut the process will only frustrate you and your contacts.
4. Your discussions are too job-centric.
If you’re in career transition, your number one priority is finding a new job. Asking your network to help you find a job, however, is a highly ineffective networking strategy. For one thing, it puts your networking contacts on the spot. Most people want to help, but if they feel that they can’t, they likely won’t respond. Also, if they can’t help you immediately, you’ll likely fall off their radar very quickly.
A far more effective approach is an informational interview. Rather than ask someone for help with your job search, ask them for information you know they can provide. Leverage their expertise by asking for insights, advice, and information on specific industries, companies, or roles. They’ll likely be flattered that you came to them and you’ll gain far more valuable support than you would by asking them to forward your resume.
5. You’re not following up effectively.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You meet a high potential contact at a networking event and send a follow-up email requesting to continue the discussion, but you receive no response. Rather than follow up more strategically, you assume that the other person isn’t interested.
Far too many executives give up because of a lack of initial response. How often have you received a message that you intended to respond to, but you got busy and forgot all about it? You didn’t respond, not because you weren’t interested, but because it simply slipped your mind. The same likely holds true for your networking contact. Rather than assume a lack of interest, try sending him some information he may find helpful, or invite her to an event she may want to attend. When you lead with value, you’re more likely to get a positive response.
Networking is an art not a science. There is no one right way to network. Much of it depends on your personality and unique goals. If your networking is not working, review these five points and adjust your strategy accordingly. If necessary, seek help from an expert who can help you maximize your networking approach.
Have you had success networking? Are you struggling to network effectively? Share your questions, insights, and suggestions in the comments section below.